When junior Christopher Evans, the Residence Hall Association adviser for City Hall, moved into the building this month, he said he was looking forward to a construction-free semester.
But after unpacking his bags, Evans came across a construction zone, this time in the basement. Workers were preparing to move several administrative offices to the space that previously held a student exercise room.
Evans thought back to last semester, when he spent much of his time advocating for residents who were upset about disruptive construction, broken elevators and the loss of wireless Internet during finals.
“It’s kind of an ongoing City Hall joke, like, ‘Oh, great, there goes that,'” he said. “It’s hard to reassure your fellow residents that it’s going to be OK when you haven’t had any heads up to do that.”
University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said GW learned that the exercise room “was not being utilized.”
“So the space was repurposed to allow for a staff conference room during the day and study space at night for residents,” he said.
Tensions between students living in the hall and officials came to a head last semester when residents said they cleaned up messes left by construction work, were woken up by loud noise and experienced a power outage that was planned for the last week of classes.
In his three years as an RHA leader working with officials as a liaison to voice student concerns, Evans said he has never had to lobby for fixes to problems as extreme as those in City Hall.
Students should “expect that they can live, study and find a community” in a residence hall that costs nearly $13,000, Evans said, though the loud construction and elevator outages made everyday tasks “absolutely absurd.”
“City Hall was a whole new thing,” he said.
In a building full of frustrated students, Evans said he had trouble fulfilling his responsibility to build a community among the residents. And now with the recent construction in the basement, he said there’s little space for group meetings.
“It was tough to get a community vibe around anything besides complaining,” he said. “We can host cookies and complaints in the lobby, but then it’s not a community of people who live there, it’s a group of people who want to get out.”
And though many students hoped their living situation would improve after winter break, some returned to campus to find some of the same problems they experienced last semester, like regular elevator outages.
Senior Myles Goldman, a resident of City Hall, entered his room after break to find a black trash bag taped to his bedroom wall, covering a large hole. A FIXit card hung on his doorknob explained that a pipe between his bedroom and bathroom wall had burst.
He called the incident “frustrating and disappointing,” and though the pipe did not damage his room, water leaked into the suite one floor below him.
Evans said he hopes to create a stronger line of communication between City Hall’s residents and facilities officials so the RHA has enough time to prepare students for glitches or planned projects.
“It’s not just a building that needs to be finished,” Evans said. “It’s peoples’ homes now.”